John McEwen on good public art

Recently INSTUDIO asked John McEwen, one of Canada’s foremost sculptors, to identify what, in his view, makes good public art. McEwen, who is a 1970 graduate of the Sculpture program, is certainly no stranger to outdoor commissions. Here are some of his thoughts on their making and merits.


For me, the most significant component of good public art is that the principles that form it are overlapping and interrelated. By the time one arrives at art school one has probably been given the cards (no matter how invisible) that will play out over the course of one’s life. However, with a deck of 56 cards comprising four different suits, the hands dealt will be highly mutable. The images presented here, which fall roughly into four chronological parts, demonstrate both the development and mutability of my public work in terms of that rough chronology.

 

On good public art: four interrelated and overlapping principles

  1. Good public art is a journey. Good public art occurs over time, bringing together an artist, an audience and a public space. The entry of the public and the public space alter one’s life as an artist. When good public art occurs a kind of third person can emerge, combining both artist and spectator.

  2. Good public art is more than the sum of its parts. In joining artist, audience and public space, good public art becomes the link between the human imagination and the overlapping spaces we live in. My first link was animals and my second is stars.

  3. Good public art opens to the world. The steel slab animal that I have used since 1978 is both subject and object. Unlike the iconic relationship between the weathervane and the wind, neither spectator nor environment has sole causal power. As a sculpture, the steel slab animal remains mute and motionless. But as a subject it is alive and it looks where animals look. The animal that is represented is both there and not there. Two conclusions result: first, the life of the world is independent of the human psyche; and second, in good public art we are more active participant than passive observer.

  4. Good public art recognizes the strange kinship among all living things. If the steel slab animal both evokes and protects the parallel universe of animal life, then the same animal in stars evokes the shared embodiment of all living things — as a measure that undermines any neat dichotomy between humans and animals. We are more fold than rock, in the larger melody of life.

 

Part One: The Minimal Steel Animal

 

Part Two: The Commemorative Works

 

 

 

Part Three: Celestial Space and the Lexis of Stars



Part Four: The Envelope of Stars

 



John McEwen is represented by the Olga Korper Gallery in Toronto.

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Nicole Beno Vinyl Mural

Nicole Beno Vinyl Mural
Nicole Beno Vinyl Mural
Friday, April 1, 2016 - 4:00am to Monday, May 1, 2017 - 4:00am

Onsite Gallery is pleased to present a public work by Toronto-based designer/artist Nicole Beno that celebrates Onsite Gallery’s upcoming move. View Beno’s larger-than-life vinyl mural on the window façade of 230 Richmond Street West which directly faces the gallery’s future location across the street at 199 Richmond Street West. From April 2016 to May 2017, viewable 24/7.

Curated by Linda Columbus.
 

Nicole Beno
Nicole Beno is a graphic designer and visual artist from Toronto, working with bold colours, layers and screen printed compositions. Her playful process combines hand drawings, materials, and textures with computer generated illustrations to form a unique graphic style.

Venue & Address: 
230 Richmond St. W.
Email: 
onsite@ocadu.ca
Phone: 
416-977-6000, Ext. 456
Cost: 
FREE
Nicole Beno Vinyl Mural
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Environmental Design team creates Beaches Winter Station

Rendering of a wooden installation on a snowy beach
Tuesday, January 12, 2016 - 9:15pm

OCAD University professor Mark Tholen and a team of students are building an installation for the city’s whimsical Winter Stations exhibition in the east-end Beach neighbourhood. This is the second year lifeguard stations will be transformed into interactive, sculptural shelters for winter beach-goers.

The OCAD U installation, called The Steam Canoe, is made of laminated wood panels that evoke the shape of the prow of a canoe. Solar tubes at the rear of the shelter will convert snow into steam which will flow from the structure while warming the occupants inside. 

Team members:

  • Mark Tholen, Assistant Professor, Environmental Design
  • Curtis Ho
  • Jungyun Lee
  • Monifa Onca Charles
  • Reila Park
  • Hamid Shahi
  • Lambert St‐Cyr
  • Jaewon Kim
  • Jason Wong 

Ryerson University and Laurentian University are also participating, with another four designs chosen from 378 submissions.

The exhibition opens February 15 and runs through March 20 at the Balmy, Kew and Ashbridge’s Bay beaches.

 

 

Contemporary Art Bus: One Time Or Another by Adam David Brown

photos of contemporary artworks by Roula Partheniou and Adam David Brown
logos for the Idea Exchange
Saturday, October 31, 2015 - 3:00pm to 10:30pm

The University of Waterloo Art Gallery and Idea Exchange Art + Design are proud to partner on a bus tour of the following exhibitions: Inventory by Roula Partheniou and 108 Leyton Ave by Kelly Mark at UWAG, followed by One Time Or Another by Adam David Brown, and the launch of the public art project “no pressure, no diamonds” by Hazel Meyer at Idea Exchange Queen’s Square.

Free bus will be leaving OCAD University on Saturday, October 31 at 11:00 am.

ITINERARY
11:00 AM Pick up at OCAD U: 100 McCaul Street, Toronto
12:30 PM Arrival, University of Waterloo Art Gallery: 263 Phillip Street, Waterloo
1:00 PM Artist Tour of Inventory with Roula Partheniou, and 108 Leyton Ave by Kelly Mark
2:00 PM Depart, University of Waterloo Art Gallery
2:45 PM Arrival, Idea Exchange Art + Design at Queen’s Square: 1 North Square, Cambridge
Launch of Hazel Meyer’s public art project “no pressure, no diamonds”
3:00 PM Artist Tour of One Time Or Another with Adam David Brown
4:30 PM Depart, Idea Exchange Art + Design
6:30 PM Return OCAD U, Toronto

Seating is limited to 17 passengers. First come, first seated. Bus charter, exhibitions and artist tours are free and open to all visitors and the public. For more information please contact:

UNIVERSITY OF WATERLOO ART GALLERY
263 Philip Street, Waterloo
Ivan Jurakic, Director / Curator
519.888.4567 ext. 36741
ijurakic@uwaterloo.ca
uwag.uwaterloo.ca

IDEA | EXCHANGE ART + DESIGN
1 North Square, Cambridge
Iga Janik, Curator
519.621.0460
ijanik@ideaexchange.org
ideaexchange.org

Images (from left to right): Roula Partheniou, Inventory: excerpt from House & Home & Garden (detail), 2015. Courtesy of the artist and MKG 127, Toronto. Adam David Brown, Moonlight, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and MKG 127, Toronto. Photos: Scott Lee.

Venue & Address: 
University of Waterloo Art Galley 263 Philip Street, Waterloo Idea | Exchange Art + Design
Website: 
http://uwag.uwaterloo.ca
Email: 
ijurakic@uwaterloo.ca
Phone: 
519.888.4567 ext. 36741

Recent OCAD U grads paint new mural linking two Toronto districts

Mural by Emily May Rose and Heidi Berton
Mural at University Triangle by Emily May Rose and Heidi Berton
Mural by Emily May Rose and Heidi Berton
Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 4:00am

The Toronto Entertainment District Business Improvement Area (TOED BIA) and the Toronto Financial District BIA unveiled a multi-colored mural as a shared contribution to the aesthetic improvements to the retaining wall at the University triangle (University Avenue, Front Street and York Street). The mural spans over 470 square feet from the Front Street West base of the triangle.

With a commitment to maintain this triangle, the BIAs were faced with the challenge of combating a constantly tagged wall. The solution was to partner with OCAD University to commission two artists. Mural preparations commenced on June 15th under the skillful execution of Toronto based artists Heidi Berton and Emily May Rose.  Both are graduates of OCAD U’s Illustration program. The two muralists were selected through a juried process and are part of an ongoing collaboration between OCAD U and TOED BIA.  Dr. Sara Diamond, President, OCAD University, comments further by saying “We are excited to be working with the BIAs on this project together - this is a wonderful example of how the business community can work together to improve the public realm.”

Together, Emily May Rose and Heidi Berton have created mural art with humour and vibrant colours to brighten busy commuter mornings. The mural’s colour palette is bright and whimsical, strengthening a sense of the area’s hustle and bustle, as it is depicted throughout the mural’s design. For artist, Emily May Rose “Our concept was to take the idea of the train station being the hub of activity in the Front and University area by creating a motif of city transportation imagery, centred around a train track running throughout. Because the tracks have been a constant in the lives of Torontonians and commuters for many years, we wanted to show the evolution of how people continue to get around while the train tracks remain a staple.”

Councillor McConnell of Ward 28, states that “…We are pleased to see the ongoing beautification of a key entry point to two of Toronto’s most popular destinations: The Entertainment District and the Financial District. The City of Toronto is very thankful to have our BIAs working together in maintaining and beautifying this important parkette.”

Councillor Cressy of Ward 20, commented further by saying “…such a joint project as this is a prime example of bringing public art to this vibrant and busy area of Toronto while providing a fantastic opportunity for OCAD artists to showcase their talent.”

For Video footage click https://vimeo.com/132671170

About OCAD University
OCAD University is Canada’s university of the imagination. Founded in 1876, the University is dedicated to art and design education, practice and research and to knowledge and invention across a wide range of disciplines.

About Toronto Financial District BIA
The Toronto Financial District BIA represents Toronto's premier business centre, an area that includes Union Station, the PATH underground walkway and Canada' s five major banks and most prominent firms. With a mandate to promote economic development in the area, initiatives include improving public spaces, showcasing the daily activity of our thriving businesses at www.MyTOFD.com and @MyTOFD, and identifying collaborative opportunities that ensure the Financial District and PATH are well-maintained, integrated, connected and accessible.

About the Toronto Entertainment District Business Improvement Area  Established in 2008, TOED's mandate is to promote, improve and preserve a dynamic area of Toronto. Benefitting from economic, environmental and social factors driving downtown growth, the Entertainment District is in the midst of a renaissance, firmly establishing itself as a thriving and vibrant district for living, creating, working and entertainment. From Air Canada Centre to the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, the Entertainment District includes many of Toronto's most iconic buildings. In the heart of the District is the CN Tower, Steam Whistle Brewing, Ripley's Aquarium of Canada, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, MetroCentre, Rogers Centre, Roy Thomson Hall, Princess of Wales Theatre, Royal Alexandra Theatre and TIFF Bell Lightbox (www.torontoed.com).

Incoming IAMD graduate student wins First Capital Realty Public Art competition

Image sculpture by David C. Salazar titled One-and-All, squirrel with giant acorn
Image sculpture by David C. Salazar titled One-and-All, tower of acorns
Thursday, April 23, 2015 - 4:00am

David Constantino Salazar (BFA, 2007), a graduate of OCAD University’s Sculpture & Installation program, is the winner of the 2015 First Capital Realty Public Art Competition.

Salazar’s sculpture, One-and-All, is intended to be cast in bronze and will be installed in Georgetown, Ontario. Situated on the Credit River and part of the Niagara Escarpment, Georgetown has a thriving wildlife ecosystem. Salazar says he chose to represent the community conservation areas and diverse businesses by using symbols of local wildlife, a squirrel and dove alongside an enormous acorn (representing prosperity).

Twenty-one proposals were received from students in the Faculty of Art, the Faculty of Design, and the Faculty of Graduate Studies, as well as submissions from recent OCAD U graduates. All of the shortlisted submissions will be on display in the Transit space for the duration of OCAD U’s 100th Annual Graduate Exhibition (April 29 to May 3, 2015).

Members of the jury:

  • Anda Kubis, Associate Dean, Outreach & Innovation, Faculty of Art
  • Alex Correia, Corporate Administrator, First Capital Realty
  • Erica Segal, owner of the Julie M. Gallery
  • Colette Whiten, Sculpture & Installation faculty, OCAD U (retired)
  • David Pelletier, Sculpture & Installation faculty, OCAD U (retired)

Associate Professor Francis LeBouthillier was the faculty coordinator for the competition, while Professor Eldon Garnet integrated this initiative into the curriculum of the Sculpture & Installation Public Art course.

In September, Salazar will begin his studies towards a Master’s of Fine Art in the Interdisciplinary Art, Media and Design (IAMD) program in September 2015.

First Capital Realty, Canada’s leading owner, developer and operator of supermarket- and drugstore-anchored neighbourhood and community shopping centres, has made a substantial commitment to sponsoring this public sculpture competition which is open to third- and fourth-year OCAD U students as well as recent graduates. As this year’s winner, Salazar will receive a $5000 prize and First Capital Realty will cover the cost of fabrication, site preparation, transportation and installation of his sculpture. In addition, each of the shortlisted finalists will be awarded $350 for the production of a model, plus assistance from an OCAD U digital technician to create a professional 3D rendering of their models in situ for presentation.

 

"Synesthesia" Mural Launch

Image of a wall mural with orange shapes
Friday, October 24, 2014 - 8:00pm to 9:00pm

"Synesthesia" is an interactive public artwork recently installed at the Davenport Road underpass.

The mural’s composition was developed in response to sound recordings of trains passing over the site. By calling a phone number posted at the mural location, you can listen to the recorded audio while imagining relationships of colour, shape and movement within the artwork.

Check out the sounds by calling 416-222-4897

Time: 4:00 p.m. - Visit and experience the interactive mural

         4:30 p.m. - Ribbon Cutting + short remarks from City Councillor Ward 20, StreetARToronto and Paul Aloisi

         5:00 p.m. - Reception @ Pour House 182 Dupont St.

A project by OCAD U Instructor Paul Aloisi In collaboration with StreetARToronto

Venue & Address: 
Davenport Road and Dupont Street 
Cost: 
Free

Memory Capsule at Union Station

Tuesday, January 21, 2014 - 5:00am to Friday, March 21, 2014 - 4:00am

Work by Digital Futures Graduate Che Yan (Shino) temporarily installed at Union Station

Che Yan (Shino), an MFA graduate of OCAD University’s Digital Futures program, created this inclusive, interactive installation. It allows visitors and commuters to capture their shadow silhouette on a screen projection, then text a message about their memories of Union Station. The image remains on the screen, and fades as other shadows are created.

Venue & Address: 
Great Hall, Union Station 65 Front Street West Toronto, Ontario
Cost: 
Free

DAVID PELLETTIER’S SCULPTURE OF JACK LAYTON UNVEILED IN TORONTO

Jack's Got Your Back unveiled by local dignitaries. Photo by Martin Iskandar.
David Pellettier at the sculpture unveiling. Photo by Martin Iskandar.

David Pellettier, a professor in OCAD U’s Faculty of Art, and the former chair of the Sculpture/Installation program, created a long-lasting bronze sculpture memorial honouring the legacy of beloved Toronto politician and federal New Democrat Party leader, Jack Layton.

Jack’s Got Your Back. Stronger Together: The Layton Memorial, was unveiled in a special tribute ceremony on August 22, 2013, two years from the day Layton passed away on in 2011. It’s located at the newly named Jack Layton Ferry Terminal, 9 Queens Quay West, at the foot of Bay Street.

The life-sized sculpture depicts Layton on the back of the tandem bicycle he often rode with his wife, Olivia Chow. It’s a fitting memorial to things Layton loved and championed in this city, including cycling, the waterfront, the Toronto Islands and working together. The installation also includes a flower bed, donor wall and Layton’s final message to Canadians: “So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

Chow, the NDP MP for Trinity-Spadina, the riding OCAD U is located in, is a trained sculptor herself. She studied at OCA during her university years and worked professionally as an artist for years, prior to becoming a politician. After Layton’s death she made her own memorial sculpture of him for his gravesite.

Chow credits Toronto Island residents for the initial idea for the public ferry terminal sculpture. She took the idea and approached MST Bronze Ltd., a well-known foundry in Etobicoke, and worked closely with Pellettier in the process of its creation. 

Pellettier, who balances his studio teaching at OCAD U with his own work at his studio in Gibraltar Point Centre for the Arts on Toronto Island, says he appreciated Chow’s input in capturing his expression, and getting his smile right.

“Right from the beginning she’s been a big part of this,” said Pellettier. “She has far more intimate knowledge of Jack as far as getting his presence fully there.”

The sculpture was funded by the Ontario Federation of Labour and the City of Toronto donated the land for it. It’s estimated that two million people will walk by and interact with the sculpture every year—it’s designed so that you can have a seat on the bicycle and have your photo taken.

Learn more:

Jack Layton Memorial comes to life 

FROM LA TO CAPE DORSET: PUBLIC ART STORYTELLING IS AN OCAD U HOT TOPIC

Matta, the eldest elder in town. Nunavik. Image courtesy Cape Dorset Mural Project
Judy Baca with one of her murals. Image courtesy Judy Baca.
Patrick Thompson and Gootileak Echo paint a mural in Iqaluit. Image courtesy Cape Dorset Mural Project

World renowned Los Angeles artist, educator, activist and community arts pioneer Judy Baca brings her vision for public art to OCAD U for a March 14 lecture presented by the Faculty of Arts, while OCAD U alumni Alexa Hatanaka and Patrick Thompson campaign to facilitate mural painting in Cape Dorset, Nunavut. All three artists are engaged in large-scale, collaborative multi-artist projects centred around recording memories and telling the stories of communities.

Judy Baca’s political landscapes

“I hope to use public space to create public voice, and consciousness about the presence of people who are often the majority of the population but who may not be represented in any visual way.” Judy Baca

Judy Baca with one of her murals. Image courtesy Judy Baca. Baca is a Chicana muralist who teaches at the University of California. In 1974 she founded the first City of Los Angeles Mural Program, a community arts organization that evolved into the Social and Public Art Resource Centre (SPARC). As artistic director of SPARC, Baca’s focus is on giving voice to historically disenfranchised groups and preserving their stories.

One of her most cherished projects, for which she served as director, is The Great Wall of Los Angeles, a multicultural history “tattooed” along a flood control channel in the San Fernando Valley. It’s one of the longest murals in the world. She is also inspired by the land, believing there’s an intelligence to living and growing things and to the earth that nurtured them. “I have always known the value of art as a tool for transformation both personal and political” she said. “What I have had to learn through being attentive to my own curiosities and artistic focus, is that I choose often to use land as my method of recording memories and stories in my paintings and drawings.”

Baca’s talk at OCAD U is a co-presentation by Latin American Canadian Art Projects, Community Arts Practice (CAP) at York University and OCAD U’s Faculty of Art.

Alumni help spark imaginations in the north

Patrick Thompson and Gootileak Echo paint a mural in Iqaluit. Image courtesy Cape Dorset Mural Project OCAD U alumni Alexa Hatanaka (Printmaking) and Patrick Thompson (Drawing & Painting) are getting ready to fly to Cape Dorset, Nunavut where they were invited to paint a large outdoor mural on the hamlet’s co-op building, collaborate with local artists and facilitate youth workshops. The artists have been collaborating together on murals and youth workshops in fly-in Canadian arctic communities for four years (though Thompson has been involved in such projects for ten years).

Hatanaka and Thompson will be working on the project in Cape Dorset from April 16 until the end of June, helping to collaborate on a colourful mural for a busy, northern centre that’s cold and dark for many months of the year. One of their youth workshops will delve into contemporary mural art practices and techniques while another will culminate in the painting of wildlife-proof garbage bins throughout the community.

Their project is partially funded with support from the Ontario Arts Council and First Air, with accommodation by the Kinngait Lithography studio apartment, but the couple is also seeking Indigogo funding for materials, cargo shipment and artist honourariums.

Join the conversation:

Share your favourite mural on OCAD U’s Facebook page

Learn more:

Attend Judy Baca’s lecture

Judy Baca

Cape Dorset Mural Project
 

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